A Driving Instructor's Blog

Driving Tests

Well done to AJ on Monday, who passed with just 4 driver faults.

I’ve had pupils before who were so nervous they were throwing up, but AJ is the first one who was just about shitting himself (literally). We had to stop at the test centre for him to go to the loo!

Of course, it doesn’t always go to plan. I had two fails this week, as well. Both had a small number of driver faults, but each made one silly mistake:

  • going into a right-turn lane to go ahead just outside the test centre (how many times have we discussed why we shouldn’t automatically migrate into the chav lane unless we have a good reason to by looking ahead and planning)

and

  • missing the 60mph to 30mph change on Coventry Lane, Bramcote then saying they “thought is was 40mph” when I asked them about it (which actually makes it worse, because it means they knew the limit had changed, but not what it had changed to)

Both are good drivers, so I’m sure they’ll pass next time.

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Well done DL, for passing today with 1 driver fault at Colwick Test Centre.

There are two ways of looking at this:

  • well done – great result, or
  • you dipstick – you nearly got a clean sheet

Obviously, I used the first option to begin with, then ribbed him mercilessly all the way home with the second.

The fault was for not noticing a traffic light had gone to green quickly enough. Plea in mitigation that the sun was in your eyes isn’t going to make me feel any better :mrgreen:

Seriously, though: well done!

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I may have had a pupil fail today, which is always a downer, but well done to AK who passed with 8 driver faults yesterday, at Chalfont Drive.

That 17 mile journey to work will be a lot easier now!

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I just saw someone had found the blog on the search term “bill plant pass rate “.

L Plate

If you want to be pedantic – and there are a fair number of ADIs out there whose only identifiable skill is pedantry – you could argue that if an ADI is paying a lot of money for his franchise, he might not be making much profit, so he’ll have to cut back on fuel or try and fit more lessons in, so the standard of his teaching will be affected. But then, there are plenty of smaller franchises desperately cutting prices to try and win business, and that means their franchisees aren’t earning much, either.

The bottom line is that if you get a good ADI who teaches you well, passing your test is down to you and not the ADI.

EDIT 3/2/2012: Look at the official pass rate figures in the Information section – these cover a recent 12 month period.

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Well done LF, who passed with 5 driver faults today.

I was worried when the door opened and I was waved over, but it was because she’d said at the beginning that she didn’t want me with her on the test but she did on the debrief. Phew!

She’s one of the best pupils I’ve had – very fast learner, excellent driver. And there’s always that extra satisfaction when it’s one you taught from scratch.

Her exams start this week, and she’s going to University in September, so today was a good start to an important next part of her life. That’s why I love this job.

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I saw this small article in today’s Daily Mirror .

L OF A WIN FELLAS

By RICHARD WRIGHT

MALE drivers are claiming victory over women after a motoring survey.

It found females take longer to pass their tests, needing an average of 21 lessons compared with just 17 for the boys.

Men are also more likely to pass first time, with less than 54% needing another attempt, while 57% of women have to take a second test. Women are more likely to suffer from nerves, with 92% saying they were terrified before their test but only 78% of men.

Comparison website www.confused.com carried out the study and a spokesman said: “For years, people have argued over whether men or women are the best drivers. And men can now claim victory with these results.”

Let me just set the record straight – and I should add that my data are probably more accurate than those confused.com has come up with.

  • 99% of women are shitting themselves before their tests
  • 99% of men are shitting themselves before their tests

The article also strongly suggests the following:

  • women are slightly more honest than men

Asking people how many attempts they had before passing is not the same thing as how many attempts they actually made.

Official statistics from the DSA show that the average number of hours a complete novice takes before taking their test is 45 with an instructor and 22 additional hours private practice. The quickest I have had anyone pass their test without any previous training and no private practice at all is around 23 hours. Most people take between 30-40 hours, and do lots of private practice, so Heaven knows what the confused.com data are showing. I suspect it is either a complete pack of lies from the survey correspondents, or people only including their last instructor hours (I lose count of how many come to me having done 30+ hours, and then do another 10-20 with me and pass – and even then, not necessarily first time).

But “17 hours and first time” sounds better than “well, 20 with my first instructor and failed my test, then I did another 10 with my second – but he retired, so I did another 15 with my last instructor and passed”. I think confused.com needs to wake up and smell the coffee – this business is far more complicated than that. In fact, what they are suggesting is highly irresponsible: it will make people think they can drive after 17 hours, but then they will wrap themselves round a tree because they simply haven’t got the skills and experience, even if they do scrape the test. But at least it will push insurance premiums up, so the winner would be… confused.com .

One final thing. A small bunch of liars telling you their personal fantasy does not prove that men are better drivers than women, although that’s what the report concludes.

Men are better drivers than women :twisted: However, this survey doesn’t prove that in any way, shape, or form!

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In all the years I’ve been doing this, I have never had a genuine bust up with a pupil. Until now.

I had a pupil pass his test the other day. He’d previously failed (a couple of months ago) for not responding to a car behind him when reversing round a corner. At the time, he was adamant he wasn’t going to take the test again and that he was going to drive anyway (he’d already been caught and banned for this previously). He admitted that it was his own fault he’d failed – the car had stopped, but he then paid no further heed to it and it had decided not to wait anymore.

I asked him if the examiner was OK about it, and he said “I could have smacked him one “. It was impossible to reason with him – he turned out to be one of those people who is as rough as bricks, can’t handle failure, and blames other people.

Basically, he can drive. He drives typically of someone with loads of confidence but no finesse. He could not do a single manoeuvre, and he only took three 1 hour lessons with me to that point (I hate acting as a hire car service, and refuse to do it if I can see it coming).

Anyway, before this test he took no further lessons at all. We were running through the manoeuvres before going to the test centre, and on one of them he was doing it totally wrong. I tried to explain how to do it and he snapped “look, you’re doing my f****** head in, I can’t be doing with this “.

At that point, I said “Fine! You’re doing MY f****** head in. I don’t get paid to put up with that kind of behaviour. Do it your own way. ”

For the whole session, he was not looking over his shoulder before moving off, he pulled across three cars at three successive roundabouts, he was driving too slow (last time, it was too fast). And so on.

But he passed with quite a high number of faults (a couple more would have been a fail). I couldn’t believe he got away with four for not looking over his shoulder! And he got several for driving too slow (adequate progress). I can see how the examiner saw him as a confident driver, and I expect that is what did it, but when I have excellent learners fail for a single mistake when they have otherwise been perfect, it does make me a little angry.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticising the examiner. And I’m glad this guy passed simply because I would have refused to give him any further lessons. But it’s a pass that gives me very little pleasure. I just hope I never get another ungrateful little sod like this ever again.

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Earlier this week I had a pupil on test. He’s a good driver.

So, he drives off and – 40 minutes later – arrives back at the test centre. I’ve seen him coming up the driveway, so I collect my magazine, throw my cup in the bin, and head outside.

As usual, I walk slowly towards the parked car so the examiner can either wave me over or not. The door opens (not a good sign) and I’m waved over. The examiner has got his head in his hands:

I can’t believe you did that.

I asked what had happened, and the examiner told me. It turns out my pupil had got two faults up to that point. But when they came into the car park the examiner asked him to pull into a bay – head first, not as the reverse park manoeuvre – and he didn’t stop in time and bumped into the crash barrier at the back!

The examiner was almost lost for words, and just said several times: “I can’t believe it”. He added at the end, shaking his head and looking for the right things to say:

You can obviously drive (a nice line: I taught him from scratch), so just book your test again. If anything, you were a little harsh with some of your braking sometimes (he wasn’t marked down for any of that) – but when it mattered you didn’t do it hard enough! I just don’t know what to say. It has to be a fail because it could have been another car or a pedestrian.

Depending on how you look at it, it was a good debrief (all the Nottingham examiners are decent people and say it like it is).

I could have killed him (my pupil, that is).

As I was driving him home – and bear in mind he is a Chelsea supporter, so he wasn’t going to get away without a major ribbing over it – he eventually asked:

So, if I hadn’t have done that I’d have passed?

I replied:

Yes. Yes. Yes. That’s the whole point. If you hadn’t have hit it, you’d be sitting there with a Pass Certificate. You only got two faults, which is very good.

He started slapping himself, which saved me the trouble.

There’s no damage to the car. But this guy is one of those people you just know you’re going to stay in contact with after he passes (even if it’s just texting insults to each other about the football results).

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One of my pupils gave me a laugh the other day. She’s a good driver (passed her test a while ago, but not with me), and she’s doing a Pass Plus course with me at the moment.

What A Detour

What A Detour

One of the routes I use when doing Pass Plus is down the M1 to Leicester Forest East Services (J21), then back up to J23, through Loughborough, then back to Nottingham via the A60 and some unclassified rural roads. When we were in Loughborough, she asked “Are we anywhere near Derby? “. Then a little later when we were in Keyworth, she asked “Are we near Colwick? “

OK. I suppose it depends how you define the word near. Loughborough is near Derby (20 miles) – as long as you work on the basis that the moon is a long way away, and compare other distances with that. And Keyworth definitely is quite near Colwick (10 miles) – certainly when compared with the Loughborough/Derby thing.

But while we were talking about that she told me what had happened when she and her boyfriend had set out to go to the Meadowhall Shopping Centre from Nottingham.

You can see from the map on the left that Meadowhall (the red dot) is north of Nottingham. About 41 miles north, to be a little more precise.

Apparently, after some time they found themselves at Watford Gap Services (the blue dot). Watford Gap is 51 miles south of Nottingham.

I told her that that was definitely going on my List Of Things To Tell Pupils in future. Like I said, she’s a good driver – but simple navigation (or lack thereof) is a real problem for many new drivers.

But it does probably highlight why the DSA plan to introduce an independent driving section to the test from October 2010 is a very good idea – only opposed by fossils who are just anti-DSA, no matter what.

I’ve already mentioned one of my current learners, who insisted she couldn’t drive and look at the signs as well. Although we fixed that, if we hadn’t have done then she would have gone out on her own after passing still with the same inability to navigate in the most basic of ways.

Merging

Merging

And it’s the same with a lot of others. I was explaining to one today (not that far off test standard) that when he sees a road sign it has to speak to him in words. We were joining a dual carriageway from a slip road, and the merging sign was clearly there warning of the merge – but he didn’t respond to it, even though he saw it.

And it was the same a few miles later when we came to a roundabout. I asked him to turn right, 3rd exit (and stressed the road name so he could follow the signs and road markings). Apart from the big roundabout sign there were lane signs telling you which lane to use – but again, he just didn’t respond.

In fact, I often find that those doing Pass Plus don’t actually know what many road signs mean. Once they pass their Theory Test many of them just seem to forget the Highway Code completely.

It would certainly explain the standard of driving you see on the roads each day.

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